Internet Providers in Boston, Massachusetts
There’s an easy way to pick the best Internet provider in Boston.
You just need to know a few key tips to get a fair price.
After moving around in Boston for a decade, I’ve tried almost every Internet provider. I’ve paid on average of $40 per month for just an Internet connection because I learned to negotiate for the best monthly rate.
Back then, there was literally zero competition in and around the city. The landscape is pretty different in 2019.
Streaming and cord cutting is huge. And you can use this sea change in how people watch TV to get a standalone Internet for a decent price.
There are really only four Internet service providers (ISPs) in Boston that you need to pay attention to. They are: Comcast/Xfinity, RCN, Verizon FiOS and Starry.
What’s the best option?
My favorite has been RCN because of its performance and price points. The company generally has very good introductory rates in Boston. And I’ve been able to renegotiate my monthly rate a time or two when it increased. In my experience, RCN has been the cheapest Internet service in Boston hands down.
RCN doesn’t cover all of Beantown. So here is what I think are the best companies to work with based on your geography.
Downtown Boston: Starry
North of Boston (Medford/Somerville): RCN
East Boston: Xfinity or Verizon FiOS
Boston (West): Verizon FiOS
Even readers from the Greater Boston area should be able to use this guide to pick what kind of Internet provider will be best for them. So, if you’re in Revere, Brookline, Newton, Milton or even further out, you’re in the right place.
How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?
People sometimes worry that their Internet service won’t be enough to handle all the computers, streaming devices and game consoles blasting away at once inside their home. Relax!
Streaming companies like Netflix and Hulu give you a decent baseline to start working from. When you consider that streaming Netflix in HD only requires 5 Mbps (megabits per second), you don’t need as much bandwidth as you may think.
Even if you had a snazzy new 4K TV and wanted to live stream a Red Sox game in 4K, you only need 25Mbps for that. For years, I talked my way into Internet packages that had download speeds of 50Mbps.
That gave me plenty of speed to stream on two or three TVs at once while using a PC, game console or smart phone connected to WiFi.
If you’re dealing with a larger company such as Xfinity or RCN and you don’t like the rates that are on their site, then you should chat with a customer service rep online about other Internet packages. Trust me: there are other promotional offers and deals out there aside from what you see advertised on their site.
You may get offers for a lower priced Internet if you bundle services. But if you really want JUST Internet, keep saying no thanks, and ask what else they have.
No is a powerful word when someone is trying to earn your business. Say it a couple of times and you’ll probably start hearing some offers that weren’t advertised.
Top pick: RCN, Best Internet Service Provider in Greater Boston
RCN should be your top pick if you’re lucky enough to be within the company’s service area. I was an RCN customer for about six years while living in Somerville. And even with a modest Internet package of 50Mbps download speeds, I could watch all the Netflix, Hulu and PlayStation Vue that I wanted.
RCN has expanded its internet packages in the Boston market in the last few years. So you don’t have to lowball yourself too much in terms of speed in order to get a good deal.
While writing this guide, there’s one deal I spotted that I like: 250Mbps for $39.99 per month. This price is only good for 12 months, but if you do end up chatting with an RCN agent online or by phone, you may want to ask if there are other longer-term price guarantees. A few years ago, I negotiated with an RCN agent, where I paid $34.99 per month for a year, then had a $10 increase the following year.
You can look over RCN’s page for offers in the Boston area.
TIP: The prices you’ll see on the RCN site do not include “equipment fees”. This is another way of saying that you’ll get charged for renting a modem and router.
To keep your price low, considering buying your own equipment. I use a Netgear R6700 WiFi router (AC1750). It’s plenty fast and not too expensive. For a modem, I’m using a Arris Surfboard SB6141. I’ve used this modem and router as an RCN and Comcast subscriber.
Runner up: Verizon FiOS for Streaming in Boston
Subscribing to Verizon Fios used to be pretty difficult in Boston. But the company announced last year plans to expand throughout roughly half the city, giving service to places such as Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury.
The best deal I like for streaming is the 100/100 plan for $39.99 per month because it gives you plenty of bandwidth for watching Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. And if you use smart home devices and a game console, you’ll still have plenty of speed. Fios runs on fiber-optic, which is one of the best ways to stream movies in 4K HDR (Ultra HD).
If you’re considering Verizon Fios as your Internet service provider, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
- With most of their Internet-only plans, sign up for pre-pay so you can get the best price possible.
- If you’re going for a high-priced plan with Fios, check for promotions that include incentives. In the past, FiOS offered to pick up the tab on Netflix. Do the math and make sure the incentive is worthwhile when weighing what you are paying per month for Internet.
- Many promotions are silent on fees and taxes. Verizon Fios requires a special modem and router that many customers rent for about $11 per month. You can get that off your bill by purchasing a high-quality refurbished Verizon Fios router from eBay. I bought one that I’ve been very satisfied with that comes with a brief warranty. (The same link I’ve included above.)
Look over the variety of Verizon offers for Boston customers to see if there’s a good fit for you.
Starry Internet: Best Internet Service Provider for Downtown
Starry Internet is a wireless Internet service that started in Boston, and has been slowing spreading its service across the U.S.
It’s pretty straightforward.
For $50 per month, you’ll get 200Mbps download and upload speed. If you live in a building with 20 units or more — let’s say a place like Harbor Towers or Rowe’s Wharf — check to see if Starry is available in your building.
If you’re in its service range, then Starry will set up the equipment at your building and take care of the rest. You’ll use the company’s router to connect to Starry’s Internet network. And once your building is set up, your neighbors will be able to join Starry Internet too.
Maybe you’ve heard of 5G, maybe not. But wireless internet is where the market is headed.
Starry began experimenting with its system in Boston to see if I could deal with our crazy weather. They have since expanded to Los Angeles, New York City, Denver and Washington D.C. Check to see if Starry is offered in your area. If it is, then type in the code CCR and get two months for free (a $100 value).
Comcast/Xfinity: In the city, and Greater Boston
Comcast has been a long time Internet service provider in Boston. And now that they’re facing more competition in Greater Boston, it’s a lot easier to get an Internet-only package from them at a fair price.
For a couple of years, Comcast/Xfinity was my ISP and I paid about $40 per month for 50Mbps download. If you’re living in an area where you can’t get RCN or Verizon FiOS, then I would consider using Comcast.
Comcast has a page where you can look over Internet pricing in Boston.
Quick Tip: Easily shave $10 or more off your monthly Internet bill
Even if you don’t plan on changing Internet providers, there is a quick way you can save money, and possibly improve the performance of your Internet speed. If you’re renting a modem and router from your WiFi company, it’s time to buy your own. Check out my guide on the best WiFi routers for streaming on multiple devices for more tips.
Want more tips on Internet and streaming? Head over to the main page of The Cord Cutting Report.